Lytro is Dead. Closing Doors on Innovative Light Field Technology

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

One of the axioms of any creative endeavor is that sometimes things arrive before their time. This is never more true than for Lytro and its innovative, light field image technology, that promised to enable post production to have a near infinite amount of possibilities when it came to depth of field and focus. And while Google was believed to have been buying the cutting edge research and camera company, it now appears to be not exactly accurate. To that end, Lytro will be shutting down after nearly a decade of taking images where they had never gone before.

At Lytro, we believe that Light Field will continue to shape the course of Virtual and Augmented Reality, and we’re incredibly proud of the role we’ve been able to play in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We’ve uncovered challenges we never dreamed of and made breakthroughs at a seemingly impossible pace. We’ve had some spectacular successes, and built entire systems that no one thought possible. More importantly, we built a team that was singularly unified in its focus and unrivaled in its dedication. It has been an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the cinema and Virtual Reality communities, but starting today we will not be taking on new productions or providing professional services as we prepare to wind down the company. We’re excited to see what new opportunities the future brings for the Lytro team as we go our separate ways. We would like to thank the various communities that have supported us and hope that our paths will cross in the future. – Lytro statement

Lytro got started in 2006 with the strangest looking camera I had ever seen. A rectangular cuboid with a lens on one end, and an LCD on the other, clad in bright colors and with a $400 price tag. The promise of this odd duck of a camera was that a photographer could take a picture with it, and then decide on where the focus would be after the fact in software. It was immediately apparent what the filmmaking possibilities would be, and within about 8 years, Lytro had not only a huge, light field cinema camera, the hopes of a handheld model, and lastly, a 360 degree light field camera for virtual reality. But like its still image older brother, the cameras were ungainly to use, difficult to market, and very expensive.  And even though the company was believed to be valued at over $400 million dollars, the promise of a new way of shooting motion pictures and virtual reality experiences, refining the post production workflow with light field technology never really materialized in the market.

Lytro closing certainly comes s a surprise, as Google was reported to be buying the company for $40 million dollars. It was assumed that Google wanted the light field technology research, but that proved to be premature. It now looks like Alphabet was more interested in the brain trust behind the Lytro’s light field technology and not the technology itself. “Google is acquiring some Lytro assets but without direct plans to integrate them into existing projects,” a report in The Verge stated today. “The team will apparently be spread across multiple divisions, and will not be continuing Lytro’s previous camera work.”

Those who live on the bleeding edge are often misunderstood, and that’s a touch nut to crack when trying to sell a brand new way to capturing images.  You’ll be missed, Lytro. Meanwhile, I wonder what those still image cameras are fetching on eBay?

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About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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